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My Life as a Zucchini - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
My Life as a Zucchini
Directing: B
Acting: B-
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B
Animation: B+

There's a curious thing about My Life as a Zucchini, something a bit backward from the usual discrepancy between how an animated film reaches children vs. how it reaches adults. This one seems to have themes more appropriate to the latter -- or at the very least, to older children. Indeed, it is rated PG-13, which is appropriate. This isn't a movie for small children.

Why? Mostly because of how sad it is for most of the story: this isn't just about a kid whose drunk mother called him Zucchini being sent to an orphanage. Zucchini is sent to an orphanage after he causes an accident that causes his drunk mother's death. The other kids at the orphanage all have similarly horrifying stories. The group bully ultimately talks about how his mother was a drug user.

This is all told in stop-motion animation, cute little children figures with oversized heads and bugged out eyeballs. The animation is the best thing about the film, although what necessitates it is somewhat of a mystery. Why not tell this story with live actors? In contrast to all the other 2016 animated features nominated for an Oscar this year, this one has little to offer in the way of visual inventiveness.

Maybe you have or know children with similarly dire backgrounds? In that case, My Life as a Zucchini could prove useful, showing how relationships can still be forged and retained even after despair. "Despair" is not a word I would use to describe the tone of this film, exactly, but it clearly applies to a lot of these kids' experiences.

Originally a French film, this version in the U.S. has been over dubbed with American voice talent, several recognizable, such as Nick Offerman as the cop who befriends Zucchini and starts to get attached to him; Will Forte as the resident teacher; Ellen Page as one of the other children; and Amy Sedaris as an evil aunt to another child. The American voicing works surprisingly well, all things considered: given that it's stop-motion animation, the lips and the voices match well enough. On the other hand, a whole lot of the delivery is rather deadpan. I don't know if that's how the original French voice talent did it or not; I can only say that here, it adds to the melancholy.

If it's any consolation, the ending is pleasant enough -- it's not all doom and gloom; in fact it's systematic departure from those things. But, those things also permeate much of the story, making this a rather different kind of animated feature indeed.

Orphans overcome some of the getting real in MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI.

Overall: B
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